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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Attorney Larisa’s cover-up was out of bounds

Larisa’s invoices are town property, not his
By Will Collette

The town released a copy of its contract with Indian-fighter attorney Joe Larisa to me under the state open records law. Without blackouts. Read it by clicking here.

Only a few days ago, I reported that Attorney Larisa decided to black out all details of the work he did for the town in return for almost $300,000 in fees. Almost every page of his bills to Charlestown looks like he was engaged in top-secret, clandestine activities.

There are lots of problems with Larisa’s censorship – invoices are public records and his heavy blackouts wipe out the public’s right to know what it was getting for its money.

But, based on Larisa’s contract with Charlestown, there’s yet another problem.

According to Larisa’s contract, once he produces and submits a document – any document – that document becomes the exclusive property of Charlestown.

Here’s what Larisa’s contract with Charlestown says about those records (page 2):

Based on the language in this retainer agreement, there was no good reason for Charlestown to even give Larisa the opportunity to censor his invoices, since they don’t belong to him.

Further, the town of Charlestown is the client in the attorney-client relationship that was cited as the justification for Larisa’s wholesale blackouts. As the “client,” it is Charlestown’s decision, not Larisa’s, to decide what might compromise that attorney-client relationship. Under the rules that lawyers must follow, it is the client’s decision, not the attorney’s, to determine what should be confidential.

Larisa, before voters threw him out of office as Mayor of East Providence
I have formally appealed the decision of Town Clerk Amy Rose Weinreich to provide me with the heavily censored records, rather than clean copies, to acting Town Administrator Pat Anderson. The state Access to Public Records Act requires I take that step before filing an administrative complaint with the Attorney General, or filing suit in state court.

I want to be able to see Larisa’s invoices in their entirety, just as I know I can see any other vendor or provider of service invoice to the town. I want to see - and reveal to you - what Larisa did do to justify payments of $290,047.50, especially during the past three and a half years when he seemed to do little more than collect his monthly retainer of $2050.

Larisa is the darling of the CCA and the CCA-controlled town government. If they allow Larisa to get away with his censorship, that provides yet another example of how they carry out their platform promise to run an “open, transparent, professional and civil” town government. 

The CCA-controlled town government owns this decision to cover-up - and Larisa's contract with the town is the proof.